Rebel, like many Labs, was an extremely friendly yet rambunctious boy. His only problem was that whenever his owners tried to take him for a walk, he would literally pull them over or, at very least, drag them down the streets of Austin. Not only was he a very large dog, but he was also incredibly strong and muscular. At their wit's end, his owners contacted us for help.
Rebel had no other major behavior issues, and he had a very sweet temperament with the exception that he could get pushy during greetings. We immediately began work on his pushy behavior first, in order to establish some ground rules. It was important that Rebel saw his new trainer as an authority figure as this would make training a more seamless process.
We believe that the tools used for training can make the difference between success and failure. Therefore, we evaluated the tools (collars and leashes) that Rebel's owners had been utilizing it and decided to change him to a properly fitted slip collar. Although they had already tried a slip collar in the past without success, we found that not only was it sized wrong for him... but it was oftentimes put on backwards. This is a common mistake, and not one to be faulted. After all, these collars normally don't come with instructions!
Once Rebel was fitted for an appropriate collar, we made one other change in regards to equipment. We got rid of his flexi-lead! We have only ever found a few good uses for a flexi, but for the most part we try to discourage their use for everyday walking. With a brand new 6-foot leather leash, we were all set to go!
We teach two separate types of walking - a formal heel, and an informal heel. Rebel's owners were interested in the latter - the informal heel. This means that the dog is "allowed to be a dog" on the walk. He is not expected to stay in a particular position, but he is expected to act like a gentleman. No winding back and forth, no dawdling needlessly, no stopping to pee on every bush... and no pulling! These are simple concepts that are easily understood by dogs as long as they are taught in a straightforward and concise manner.
With a bit of time and consistency, soon Rebel was walking calmly on the leash without pulling. We taught the owners how to apply these new skills, and soon Rebel was walking just as nicely with them. All it took was a little communication (to both dog and owners), and we were able to change the undesirable patterns of old. While we started our walks in their quiet Austin neighborhood, we gradually moved to busier areas so that they could practice these new skills with more distractions. Rebel, meanwhile, was on cloud nine! He loved the attention he was getting, as well as enjoying his time outside. No longer was he only getting a short stint of a walk, only to be brought back inside because of his bad behavior. Without the pulling, he got to walk for much longer! Now, everyone in the family enjoys the walks just as much as Rebel.